There are so many amazing anthologies coming out this year and Hungry Hearts is definitely one of them. The stories combine to make a book full of food, love, acceptance, and beautiful writing. I’ll give a quick synopsis of each story and then talk about my overall thoughts. Let’s get started!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.
A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.
Rain by Sangu Mandanna ✮
Anna goes to visit her Aunt Mynah with her father. Her mother died recently and Anna and her father’s relationship has been strained since it happened. She decides she wants to make her mother’s favorite dish and through the process of getting the recipe exactly right, Anna and her father bond with a little help from Aunt Mynah.
Kings and Queens by Elsie Chapman ✮
Ming works are her family’s Chinese restaurant. Her family is in a gang, the Kings and Queens, that’s in a fight with a rival gang, The Black Seas. Her older sister was injured and paralyzed by a stray bullet in a gun fight between the two gangs but the bullet that hit her was from their own gang’s guns.
Wen, the leader of the Kings and Queens has arranged for the one of the boys from the Kings and Queens gang be married to a girl from The Black Seas as some sort of truce. The engagement happens at Ming’s family’s restaurant.
Before the engagement party, the restaurant gets a “special order.” These special orders are to take care of people aka kill or abduct people. Ming gets an order the night before the party. The person on the other line wants to target a celebration She gets an order one night that asks for a creature served whole. a chicken and with the party coming up, it can only mean that. The order is to kill the members of the Kings and Queens and The Black Seas involved in the engagement party. It’s Ming’s job to do this. But someone else does the job for her.
The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon ✮
Neha writes a love advice column and tells one of her readers they should go to a different restaurant each day and eat by themselves. This will give them the courage to talk to their crush. Hoping this will help her too, She does it as well and meets people along the way that help her with her journey.
Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco
Ami is being taught to cook different foods and soups by her grandmother (or Lola Simeona) and the other women at the restaurant they work at together. They test customers with different soups. For all intents and purposes, they are witches style themselves after the Mangkukulan. They don’t like the “witch” word because it is a Western version of what they are.
The women can change people’s fortunes and lives with different foods but they have one rule: Never make it personal. As Ami learns about her grandmother’s past, she tries to use what she’s learned on the her bullies at school. Her grandmother catches her and becomes very angry. Ami is making it personal. But her grandmother doesn’t push Ami’s bullies aside. She goes to her school and when she realizes the school won’t do anything, she allows Ami to put a bit of revenge into her recipes. Civility if not always the best option.
Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid ✮
Joko goes to a dim sum restaurant he found that is supposed to change people’s lives. He hopes the food will cure him of his fear of death. He took a swim with a friend that almost killed him and that’s when the fear started.
Joko ends up ordering some dim sum and a bowl of soup and begins to chat up a boy, Leo, sitting in a nearby booth.
Joko narrates how he got to the US from Montenegro where he’s from. He heard about Hungry Hearts Row from a tourist back home and he knew he had to come check it out. After his meal, he feels much better about life.
The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond ✮
Charlie is able to see ghosts and regularly see a man who used to visit the store he works at every day. But that’s not his only job. His family helps run the Hungry Ghost Festival and he is in charge this year of their booth. It’s usually his grandmother’s job to feed and entertain the ghosts that come back this one day each year, but as she is very ill, he has to try.
Charlie is also part of a cultural exchange club t school and one of the club’s outings is to go to this festival. Charlie is worried what his friends and his crush, Helen, will think of the festival. And he’s right to be worried. Helen does not react well but Andie, the leader of the club ends up sticking up for Charlie and stays to help him fight one particular ghosts, The Slender One.
Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Coles ✮
Leo enters a cooking competition, hoping he will win the prize money to help his mom. She is very sick with a brain tumor. He stays with his Grandma while in Hungry Heart Row. She has won the competition many times over.
Once he goes through a few recipes in his head, he decides to use the recipes from his family. He makes his grandmother’s glazed chicken with cheesy potatoes.
The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse
Kelsey and her mother do not have a good relationship. Her mom runs a restaurant and is rarely around and feeling neglected, Kelsey tends to get in a lot of trouble.
But one day, Kelsey meets one of the guys that works in the kitchen, Seth. He tells her he can do something for her but Kelsey initially declines. But then she has a blow up with her mother and goes to Seth for a favor. What does he want in return? He wants her to cook for him. She makes frybread.
In exchange, she wants life to be the way it was before her dad died. She wants her mom back and she’s willing to sacrifice the restaurant for it. But the day of Kelsey reconsiders and runs to get to her mother. She finds her but Seth is there too and nothing good can happen with them all together. This is definitely the creepiest of the stories in the book.
Hearts a la Carte by Karuna Riazi
A boy named Hasan falls from the sky or at least that’s what it seems like to Munira. But he doesn’t try to harm her. He only wants to eat at her family’s food truck. After he visits a couple of times, they begin to get to know each other and Munira gets a crush on him.
But one night, one of his enemies comes and fights him, destroying the food truck and messing with Munira’s life. Her family depend on the food truck. Hasan is upset that he let his life hurt her, but she is upset he wasn’t honest with her.
During the time when she can’t work in the food truck, she gets an internship as a wedding planner’s assistant. As her life begins to have some balance again, Hasan comes back into her life. He tells her he and his family will pay for a new truck, and that he’d like to be her friend again if she’ll let him. She is not sure but decides they can try.
Bloom by Phoebe North ✮
Naomi works at her grandfather’s (Pop) Jewish Deli. They have regular customers every day, but one day, a boy, Simon, comes in quoting James Joyce and Naomi is immediately smitten. He is in college and she is a senior in high school, but she doesn’t attend as much since her parent died.
Just when Naomi is kicking herself for not getting the boy’s number, he comes into the deli again and they begin dating. But having a boyfriend doesn’t fix her life. Her brother keeps wanting her to look into colleges, apply, and do as much as she can, but she doesn’t have any idea what she wants to do.
She keeps dating Simon, but she finds that she doesn’t really feels safe with him. He wants more from her than she’s willing to give and he’s quite privileged. He wants her to talk more, be more.
She is fine just being with him but something tips the scales. She quotes the James Joyce quote back to Simon and realizes he hasn’t actually finished the book. This causes her to break up with him a few days after that.
The story ends with Naomi wondering if perhaps the butcher’s daughter, Chava, is the kind of person for her. Chava seems to get her and best of all, makes her comfortable.
A Bountiful Film by S.K. Ali
Hania just moved to Hungry Heart Row and is trying to decide what she wants to film for for the film festival she enters every year. So, she begins filming her grandmothers club, The Thursday Club. They eat and shoot the shit and that’s where she learns about a boy named Barnaby Bennett who went missing. After hearing the story, she decides to make a film about his disappearance.
Hania realizes she knew him from volunteering at a soup kitchen By making this film, she slowly gets used to Hungry Heart Row, a place she never wanted to feel at home in.
But she wonders if her new home is being invaded by her nemesis from her old school, Gabrielle Rose. She seems to be in town filming too and Hania wants to know why.
Side Work by Sara Farzian ✮
Laleh works at her uncle’s restaurant, Manijeh’s. Her life was going fine until she got in an accident. That’s mainly why she’s working at her uncle’s. After the accident, she dropped out of college and her father is barely speaking to her.
Manujeh’s isn’t doing great in terms of business, especially when a new fancy restaurant called Zia Sofia Ristorante opened across the street. It’s the first chain restaurant on Hungry Heart Row.
But then something happens. Laleh and her uncle go over to welcome the new people to the neighborhood and they pretty much blow them off. Luckily, Laleh knows one of the waitresses there, Natalie (someone she knew from before the accident and kissed). Natalie ends up eating at their restaurant and thinks it’s so good that she tells her co-workers about it. They start coming to the restaurant so much that at one point, almost all the people who work at Zia Sofia are in Manijeh’s.
The only person not going to the restaurant is Laleh’s father. But one day, after Natalie drops her off at her house, Laleh gets into a fight with her dad and she finds out exactly why he can barely talk to her. He was so worried and he thought he lost her when the accident happened. After the fight, her father actually comes in and eats at the restaurant, eats her food and loves it.
Panadería Pastelería by Anna-Marie Mclemore ✮
Lila has been giving people pastry’s from her family’s bakery through the whole anthology. Now it’s time for her story.
Lila can make just about any baked good except one. The pinata cakes are her kryptonite. Only her mother makes them. Lila makes pastries based on her intuition and the pinata cakes need more precision.
When Lila begins making pastries, she doesn’t always know who she’s making them for. She only knows when she finds the person that it is meant for them. But sometimes she does know.
One day, Lila comes into the bakery and finds a boy stacking tamales in the bakery. When it becomes clear that her parents signed off on the tamales, Lila begins to get worried. Is the business not making enough money?
The boy turns out to be, Gael, a kid she knew when they were both little. He’s someone she used to know, but not play with because they were both too shy.
Every day, Lila brings pastries to apartment buildings, but they buildings don’t look how they used to. The neighborhood is becoming gentrified. There are fancy townhouse where there used to be apartments and the people who live in the apartments aren’t as welcoming as they once were. There is a women who looks at Lila with disapproval and bigotry and once she see her, Lila gets out of there as fast as she can.
Everyone knows their pastelería, but they don’t know or care about the people who work there.
As the story goes on, she spends more time with Gael at the bakery and comes to realize she likes him. She just has to figure out a way to tell him with one of her pastry creations.
She falls for him even more when he catches the same lady insulting her and tells her off. They talk after and he mentions that he’s noticed she doesn’t talk much. She says she doesn’t like how people use words. He gets that. And she gets that he gets that because while she is Mexican, he is Mexican and trans. But he still believes words can be good.
After they talk, Lila goes home and cuts her first pinata cake with her mom’s help. And when Gael comes in, she give him the pinata cake, knowing it will mean the world to him.
While I loved every story in this anthology for a different reason, the one’s I starred are my particular favorites. And yes, I realize I starred almost every one lol. That shows you how much I loved it. It’s sweet and sad, and happy and heartbreaking all in one book. I am giving Hungry Hearts 5 out of 5 stars. If you enjoy diverse stories (who doesn’t) and delicious food, you must add this to your TBR immediately!
Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love comes out June 18, 2019
Thank you to Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for the free eARC in exchange for the honest review!